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Biz Buzz: Travel expo headache

/ 12:14 AM February 13, 2017

The lines for the Travel Tour Expo 2017 at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City—organized by the Philippine Travel Agencies Association—started to form at around sunrise, more than four hours ahead of the event’s official opening last Friday. That’s how eager Filipinos were to snap up cheap travel deals.

But the annual event almost descended into chaos as soon as the exhibit hall’s doors opened. The reason? The high speed internet connection needed to make online travel bookings was down. That meant the thousands of would-be travelers could salivate all they want about cheap airfare and hotel promos, but they couldn’t actually lock in their purchases.

We’re told that some travel agencies had to resort to the old style and cumbersome method of calling up their head offices and making the booking arrangements by phone, much to the dismay of the clients, some of whom waited and loitered in the area for six hours waiting to snag their dream holiday on top of having had to wait for hours for the expo to open.

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Formal apologies were issued only around 11 a.m. and organizers announced that technical people from their internet service provider sponsor would go from booth to booth to fix their connections. But nobody arrived, we’re told.

Thankfully, the travel agency professionals proved their worth as they did their best to smooth the frazzled clients, smiling and extending patience and courtesy all throughout the opening day.

(One inadvertent beneficiary of the internet failure was Citibank as its marketing staff was able to draw in a lot of idle would-be travelers to apply for credit cards.)

Unfortunately, when internet services slowly came back later in the afternoon, a lot of the cheap airline seats had already been sold, leaving a number of clients frustrated and upset. Who’s the culprit? Well, let’s just say it’s high time for this giant telecommunications firm to really get its act together. —DAXIM L. LUCAS

Not-so-united in Parañaque

You’d think that the owner of a successful bakery and cafe business would be an exemplar for the community around her, but Biz Buzz heard that a growing number of this lady’s neighbors in an exclusive subdivision in Parañaque think otherwise.

According to our sources, this baker-businesswoman has been in the habit of regularly flouting the rules of their gated community’s residents’ association and there seems to be little her long-suffering neighbors can do about it.

What kind of violations? Well, how about building her and her family’s houses in excess of prescribed height limits? Wait … “houses”? Yes, Biz Buzz was told that of the 330 or so properties in the Parañaque subdivision, Mrs. Baker Businesswoman and the rest of her family now own more than 30. That represents about 10 percent of the properties plus proxies from other “friendly” residents and allies give her virtual control of the village association.

But her neighbors also complain that some of her properties violate so-called “setback” rules, with some of her structures being built all the way to the property line (what an eyesore), instead of providing some breathing space between the private and public parts of the community.

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More alarmingly, Mrs. Baker Businesswoman also apparently knocked down the perimeter fence of the village to connect her property with her business’ commissary, which was built outside the subdivision’s property line. Not only is this prohibited, but neighbors are now worried about their security, given the extra access point to the community that was created without the association’s approval.

Other violations include having the offices of her growing business inside the residential community and hosting what was basically a dormitory for her growing number of employees for her popular cafe chain (which has almost 40 branches and kiosks around Metro Manila).

What’s even odder is that the branches of her cozy cafes are adorned with religious artifacts and even offer religious literature for sale. Oh well … ensaymada or cheese rolls, anyone? —DAXIM L. LUCAS

Singson scores

A lot of commuters felt good about former Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson returning to the private sector as head of the LRT-1 concessionaire, Light Rail Manila Corp.

While many people are skeptical of the private sector running public services, imagining obscene profits being made at their expense, Singson said recently that this was definitely not the case with the LRT-1. After the rehabilitation costs and the actual railway extension to Cavite province, estimated to cost more than P30 billion, Singson said they won’t be making too much money.

The Cavite extension, he said, would almost double current ridership to about 800,000 people a day when it opens in 2021. Even then, he expects the LRT-1 to post P3 billion in annual profits. This then needs to be split among Light Rail Manila owners, themselves big conglomerates Ayala Corp. and Metro Pacific Investments Corp.
For most people, P3 billion might sound like a fortune—because it is. For those conglomerates, which control the country’s biggest telco, banking, energy, toll road, real estate and water interests, it’s closer to an oversized drop in the bucket. —MIGUEL R. CAMUS

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TAGS: economy, Philippine news updates, Travel Tour Expo 2017
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